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Idaho teen dies in fall over Glacier waterfall

August 1, 2018

A 15-year-old Idaho teen fell to his death Tuesday afternoon in Glacier National Park after slipping into a culvert under Going-to-the-Sun Road.

The victim was identified as Spencer Flerchinger of Kamiah, Idaho. He was visiting the park with his parents.

According to a park news release, at approximately 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, park dispatch received a call from a shuttle driver that someone had fallen at Haystack Creek along the west side of the Sun Road.

Park rangers found that Flerchinger had fallen approximately 100 feet below the road in Haystack Creek and died. Initial witness reports indicated that the victim was exploring the culvert that runs beneath the road, slipped into the creek and was carried through, falling approximately 100 feet below the roadway.

The Sun Road was restricted to one lane travel for three hours Tuesday evening near the incident, and temporarily closed for approximately 10 minutes to vehicles in both directions while rangers secured the scene of the accident and recovered the victim’s body from a ledge below the road using a litter carryout.

No suspicious circumstances have been noted, and the investigation is ongoing.

“It’s often the case that people hear about a tragic incident like this and think that it couldn’t happen to them,” said Glacier National Park Chief Ranger Paul Austin. “The facts are that many people explore the park each day in ways that could result in a serious accident. Take a few minutes before your trip to public lands to identify significant hazards. Prepare for the possibility of getting lost on a trail or an unexpected animal encounter. Stay away from rushing creeks and sheer drops.”

This fatality follows a similar death in July 2017 at Haystack Creek when a person fell into the creek above the culvert while taking a photograph. While falls into water features are a common cause of injury and death, the recent occurrence of another fatality at the same location is not commonplace.

Visitors are urged to use extreme caution while recreating in the park.

Unpredictable wildlife, extreme natural features, and other hazards exist in nearly all locations, including areas that may seem relatively safe. Glacier has 42 named waterfalls in addition to unnamed creeks and falls, and tens of miles of roadway that border steep cliffs.

Falls in and near water features are a leading cause of death and visitors should avoid areas with slippery rocks that might result in a significant fall.

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